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Board passes resolution concerning A-F accountability rating system for Texas public schools

Jan. 17, 2017 - The New Caney ISD Board of Trustees joined hundreds of other school districts’ across Texas and passed a resolution calling for the repeal of state legislation implementing an A-F rating system for Texas schools and districts and replacing it with community-based accountability that empowers local communities and districts to design their own internal systems of assessment and accountability.  
 
The Texas Legislature has enacted legislation, passed in 2015, that requires the Commissioner of Education to implement a public school rating system that would assign A through F grades to schools and districts beginning with the 2017-18 school year. In January, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) released what it calls a preliminary work-in-progress report regarding the A-F rating system. The report includes grades for campuses and the district in four of the five areas designated by the law as if it had been in effect for the 2015-16 school year. The Texas Commissioner of Education released a statement reminding the public that “the ratings in this report are for informational purposes to meet a legislative requirement and represent work-in-progress models that are likely to change” before the new system goes into effect in 2018. 
 
Under the current TEA school accountability system, all NCISD campuses, along with the district, achieved the highest possible rating in 2016. 
 
New Caney ISD, of course, stands ready to work within the new accountability system when it is completed. However, we are concerned that applying an A-F rating to public schools misrepresents a large percentage of what happens in schools during the course of a school year. The A-F system relies primarily on standardized tests administered to students on a single day during the year and, therefore, does not capture the entirety of a student’s learning. 
 
Standardized tests inherently result in a distribution of performance in which some students are above average and some below no matter the rigor of the curriculum or the quality of the learning process. This means that an accountability system based primarily on standardized tests will result in ratings that don’t accurately reflect educational quality or student learning. While useful for recognizing patterns, including gaps, among a population of students and focusing instructional interventions to specific students or populations of students, the very nature of a standardized test makes it inappropriate as a primary factor for assigning accountability ratings. 
 
Furthermore, the system does not account for socioeconomic conditions that influence performance and are not within a school’s control. There are strong correlations between scores on standardized tests and a variety of factors that contribute to success in school, including economic background, English language proficiency, and student/family mobility. The A-F system would ignore the efforts being made in some of the most challenging educational environments. We think this is unfair to schools and the communities they serve. 
 
Accountability is an important part of determining organizational success and identifying areas for improvement. The purpose of accountability is to ensure education is happening in the schools, not create a rank order system that is about comparing schools rather than holding them accountable for educating students. The A-F system will damage the state’s public education system and unfairly stigmatize schools and communities. 
The goals of accountability should align with the needs of students and, therefore, be based in the communities in which schools serve. An effective accountability system should look beyond high-stakes, multiple-choice exams to meaningful assessments that have value for students, parents, and teachers, as well as measure what each local community deems important in promoting college and career readiness. 
 
Kenn Franklin
Superintendent of Schools